Movie Review – Upgrade

Slick, scorching, grisly and clichéd AF – strap in for an Upgrade.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Pascoe

Written and directed by Leigh Whannell (Saw, Insidious), new Australian film Upgrade is a screaming collision of Paul Verhoeven tech-thriller, grimy cyberpunk mystery and grotesque David Cronenberg body horror. There are moments of intense gore and dark humour, with fantastic choreography and inventive camerawork tying it all together. Think Robocop and Minority Report meets John Wick and Avatar.

If that sounds like your kind of thing, buckle in for a wild ride. Whannell serves up a frenetic 90-minute sci-fi thriller that opens with Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) and wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) brutally assaulted by a quartet of cybernetic thugs. Waking up in hospital as a paraplegic, Grey’s only hope for exacting revenge is an experimental computer chip called STEM (Simon Maiden), which not only gives him the ability to walk, but also kick-ass and take names. It also talks to only him and feeds him advice, sort of like if the devil on your shoulder had a baby with a vaguely sarcastic Siri knock-off.

Even if it’s a setting and a premise we’ve seen umpteen times before, Upgrade is garnished with just enough to keep it afloat. The futuristic tech is believable and the stream of dark humour is fun and ensures the bleak Black Mirror-esque paranoia isn’t suffocating. Marshall-Green is the real standout though; his performance is touching, hilarious and badass, sometimes in the very same scene. Just the right balance of mirth and gravitas for this hokey B-movie fluff.

Where Upgrade struggles is its plot; the twists and turns are immediately obvious to anyone with half a brain and are ripped straight from the guidebook on dark sci-fi horror. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all, I guess.

Upgrade is available in Australian cinemas from June 14 

Image courtesy of Madman Entertainment 

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Unusual Christmas Films

‘Tis the season of busy queues, deadlock traffic and awkward family gatherings! But amongst all the red and green noise comes the return of everyone’s favourite thing. No, not Michael Bublé.  I’m talking about Christmas movies.

Josip Knezevic 

While many have grown to love the popular hits, let’s delve into the films that often get overlooked this time of year. Even though they might not exactly be about Christmas, they’re sure to get you into the holiday mood… or sometimes, scare you into it…

The Dead Zone (1983)

I wasn’t kidding when I said these films might scare you. Much like fellow, unintentional Christmas movie Die Hard, The Dead Zone is set during the Christmas holidays, and it also deserves to be put in the spotlight. Following a tragic accident, high school teacher Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) awakens from a coma to discover he can foresee future events, most of which relate to death. Soon, he comes across a difficult choice, sort of like if you had the knowledge of Hitler’s atrocities before he was elected… what would you do…?

It’s one of many rich and suspenseful plot points that David Cronenberg faithfully brings to life from Stephen King’s masterpiece novel, and thanks to Walken’s lead performance, it might just leave a lasting impression on you. Check it out!

Christmas Movies The Dead Zone Christmas 2017


Lethal Weapon (1987)

It’s hard to tell that this buddy cop classic is set during Christmas, mainly because it’s Los Angeles location lends it to zero snow, but also because it’s about investigating a homicide with ties to drugs, prostitution and pornography… Ho ho ho?

Nevertheless, throughout the chaos there’s many seasonal gems hidden in the background. Call it subliminal messaging if you will, but if you pay attention you should notice things like a Bugs Bunny holiday special on TV while Riggs (Mel Gibson) contemplates killing himself. Plus, there’s the more obvious Christmas celebration at the home of his new partner, Murtaugh (Danny Glover). It’s moments like these that justify Lethal Weapon’s presence on this list, because at the end of the day, this film is all about family and giving.

Christmas Movies Lethal Weapon December 2017


Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Robert Downey Jr features here in one of his most underappreciated roles as a quirky thief masquerading as an actor to solve a murder mystery. Once again, it’s not really about Christmas, but thanks to Shane Black’s irreverent style of comedy, there’s enough jokes related to the timing of these murder’s taking place during the Christmas holidays that make it a hilarious and festive watch.

Instead of exploring family and giving to others, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang focuses more on the absolute madness of this time of year. It’s probably not one for the kids, it can get a little bit raunchy and it is a murder mystery after all.

Christmas Movies Kiss Kiss Bang Bang December 2017


Images courtesy of Infogrames Asia Pacific/Hoyts Distribution, Warner Bros. and Roadshow Films 

Quick Picks – Revelation Perth International Film Festival – Feature Films

What Lola Wants

Fast, fun, and ferocious – What Lola Wants may just be Revelation Perth International Film Festival 2015’s boldest and brightest feature.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Tom Munday

Sophie Lowe in What Lola Wants

Sophie Lowe in What Lola Wants

Celebrity teenager Lola Franklin (Sophie Lowe) has run away from her Beverley Hills lifestyle into the wild, wild west. Believing she has been kidnapped, her parents stamp down a $1 million reward for her safe return. Lola meets rebellious, pickpocketing loner Marlo (Beau Knapp) in a diner, convinced he is the man of her dreams. Marlo, being hunted by Mama (Dale Dickey), is already neck-deep in trouble. The destructive duo heads out on the road, taking down anyone in his or her path. But which reward will Marlo choose – the girl or the money?

What Lola Wants is one of the biggest surprises of 2015. This crime-thriller is the pitch-perfect example of less is more – relying on character and tone over anything else. Australian writer/director Rupert Glasson injects his frenzying style onto every page and frame. Attributing to Quentin Tarantino and Sam Peckinpah, every plot-point, twist, and line of dialogue is drenched in pulp and viscera. Told from its lead’s perspective, it’s tough, sexy atmosphere sparks a thrilling pace. Glasson’s latest venture harkens back to some of Hollywood’s biggest middle-finger thrillers like Natural Born Killers and Badlands.

Glasson’s hyperkinetic, frivolous visuals bolster What Lola Wants’ simple-yet-effective narrative. Its lurid cinematography flaunts the American Heartland’s glorious scenic vistas. In addition, its scintillating score pays tribute to the dark, disturbing heart of the western genre. Indeed, touches including an animated credits sequences and comic-book-esque scene transitions deliver multiple surprises. Most importantly, the performances take charge from the outset – with Lowe and Knapp’s chemistry establishing their significant talents.

Bolstered by style and substance, What Lola Wants has more brains, brawn, and heart than anything 2015’s big-budget slate has offered thus far.

Screening:
Sat 11th July, 6:45pm, Luna Leederville


Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites

 Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites, though not for the faint-hearted, is a unique and mind-altering experimental-drama/black-comedy.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Tom Munday 

Teik Kim Pok in Alvin’s Harmonious World Of Opposites

The plot of Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites is, inexplicably, more intricate and perplexing than its title. Alvin (Teik Kim Pok) has not left the confines of his one-bedroom apartment for over 18 months. The agoraphobic nobody lives only with bizarre collections of toy pandas, Prince Charles and Princess Diana memorabilia, and vintage flour containers. Human interactions include obnoxious neighbour Virginia (Vashti Hughes) and video chats with his boss Angela (Allis Logan). With work and home-life difficulties building up, Alvin becomes paranoid after brown ooze begins dripping through the ceiling.

Writer/director Platon Theodoris’ feature debut is a unique and nightmarish examination of the Average Joe. His project meddles with several genres, concepts, and themes, with the first-two thirds highlighting the long-standing tedium of Alvin’s decaying existence. Sticking with Alvin inside his claustrophobic abode, the narrative’s repetitiveness and peculiarity illicit a unique physical, mental, and spiritual response. Similarly to David Lynch and David Cronenberg, Theodoris’ writing and directorial ticks put the audience on edge throughout its steady 73-minute run-time.

Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites’ final third becomes a Rubik’s cube-level obstacle course through awe-inspiring visuals and intricate ideas. Delving into Alvin’s baffling subconscious, Theodoris’ project switches valiantly from black comedy to existential angst. Scenic vistas and a stirring score establish the dramedy’s discussion of introspection, loneliness, and voyeurism. Pok, carrying every scene, conveys a bevvy of complex emotions with several key facial expressions.

This drama-thriller/black-comedy is a bizarre yet rewarding trip through Alvin’s dreamscape. Theodoris’ feature debut is set to be the “Did you get it?” flick of this year’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival.

Screenings:
Thurs 9th July 8:30pm – Cinema Paradiso
Sat 11th July 3:30pm – Luna Leederville


Plague

Here we go again…Plague is yet another exploration of the decisions we may be faced with if the world was to end in a zombie apocalypse.

⭐ ⭐
Review by Chantall Victor

Scene from Plague

Scene from Plague

Directed by Nick Kozakis and Kosta Ouzas, Australian film Plague aims to present itself as a horror film, but comes off as more of a psychological thriller – at least for the first 20 minutes. From then on it’s all downhill as sadly, the film meets its own death, and decays on the screen before the audience’s eyes for the remainder of its runtime.

Evie (Tegan Crowely) is stuck with a group of survivors in an Australian barn when she is confronted with the difficult decision of whether to stay and wait for her husband (Scott Marcus) – who may have been turned into a zombie – or go with the group in search of safety. Of course, true love abides, and she stays behind, only to encounter an unexpected guest.

I always look forward to an Australian made film because I believe the Australian industry has such potential, but unfortunately, this film will have to be an exception to my rule. Although visually pleasing — thanks to the make-up department, and cinematographer Tim Metherall — the film suffers from a lack of character development, and endless plot holes. At times the story becomes so unconvincing that it’s laughable — think the Australian version of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room – and so many elements are left unexplained. Overall, the aesthetics are just not enough to save this vague zombie flick.

Screening:
Sat 11th, 8:45pm – Luna Leederville


Images courtesy of Revelation Perth International Film Festival, Rupert Glasson, Big Name Studios & Burning Ships Productions

 

Movie Review – Clouds of Sils Maria

Self-reference and introspection – Hollywood loves that kind of stuff, but rarely is it executed with such aplomb as in Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Rhys Graeme-Drury

Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is an aging movie star whose career is at a crossroad. Best known for playing a young temptress to an older woman in a film called Maloja Snake, Enders now finds herself old enough to play the latter role in a sequel, and usurped by a hot young starlet (Chloë Grace Moretz). In order to prepare for the role, Maria retreats to an isolated Alpine house with her dedicated assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) where the duo bond and reflect.

Clouds of Sils Maria is a truly beautiful film; Olivier Assayas’ sublime direction and Yorick Le Saux’s cinematography drink in the serene mountainous landscape and, when combined with the trio of stellar performances from Binoche, Stewart and Moretz, culminate to present a slick, chic European character study that is equals parts stylish and substantial. It’s like Birdman where mountain treks and picnics take the place of pokey Broadway theatres and talking film posters.

Much like the aforementioned Best Picture winner and David Cronenberg’s recent satire Maps to the Stars, Clouds of Sils Maria has much to say about the movie industry, and the nature of show business. With Binoche’s aging star at its core, this is a movie that comments on the supposed growing divide between art and entertainment: “I’m sick of acting hanging from wires in front of green screens – I’ve outgrown it,” muses Maria at one point in a scathing put-down on superhero movies and blockbuster cinema.

For Maria, cinema is about deep characters and grounded realities, not cartoonish superpowers and evil mutants. One scene where Binoche and Stewart debate the worth of blockbuster cinema highlights the fantastic duality Assayas constructs between each of their characters. a contrast that inspires much debate after the film. Stewart gives a career-best performance that shows she’s much more than just a sulky teen with a vamp fetish whilst Moretz is a hoot as the wayward wannabe out to paint the town red.

Unlike Cronenberg’s scattershot satire, Clouds of Sils Maria has a much firmer and coherent narrative anchoring its commentary on Hollywood, fame and celebrity culture. Occasional off-the-cuff remarks about stars like Lindsay Lohan provide a gentle undercurrent of tongue-in-cheek asides that never feel spoon-fed or indulgent.

The bulk of the film is comprised of long-winded and wordy dialogue scenes that are heavy on themes such as age, gender and sexuality. Long takes, very few cuts and slow pans make for a film that lingers on its subject. It’s a slow burn that will repay audiences who make the effort to pay attention, and drink in the intelligent writing and nuanced acting. Does much actually happen? Not really. Is that the point? Yes, in a sense.

Essentially, Clouds of Sil Maria is an unconventional and pensive film comprised of gorgeous filmmaking and layered performances, but it is an acquired taste, one that will enthrall art-house admirers and unquestionably comatose anyone else.